Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Samsung A-VSB to Mobile Devices Press Conference and Demo

I made my way out of the left side of the South Hall to the Renaissance Hotel for a Monday 3:30pm press conference hosted by Samsung and their partners of Advanced VSB (A-VSB) technology designed to support DTV broadcasts to mobile devices such as cellphones, PDAs, personal media players, and automotive TVs.  A-VSB is one of two leading candidates proposed to the ATSC for adoption as an extension to the USA terrestrial DTV standard to support mixed OTA broadcasts to conventional (i.e. fixed) and new mobile TVs.  It is in contention with technology from LG/Zenith called MPH.

If my memory serves right, the first A-VSB demo was at CES in Las Vegas two years ago and the technology has advanced beyond the original two year old proof of concept in that the enabling silicon is close to meeting RF performance and battery life specs.  More importantly the A-VSB now includes standards above the physical layer to support Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) features such as meta-data and will include conditional access (CA) and DRMs.  The meta-data will support program guides and interactive TV back channel to the content provider such as for opinion polling, video commerce, and audience measurement.  The CA will support other than pure advertising supported biz models such as pay per month subscription services.

The presentation lacked technical details and no engineers were present to answer some pointed technical questions.  The session was useful but would have been more interesting if the A-VSB merits were compared to MPH and MediaFLO competition.  Even though DVB-H is not an active candidate in the USA, it is likely Echostar will use their newly acquired spectrum for broadcast DTV and given their adoption of satellite DVB, it would not be surprising that DVB-H could also be a competitor for mobile TV.

A-VSB and MPH do share the unique characteristic however that they are designed to be compatible with operation on the same transmitter carrying conventional ATSC so that a broadcaster can target both coventional fixed TVs at home and new mobile platforms.

At the end of press conference, we were treated to a bus ride about the city to show that indeed A-VSB works while in motion and conventional ATSC does not.  The demos included showcasing a variety of prototype devices including GSM cellphones, portable media players, tablet PCs, and auto TVs.


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